Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 03/2004

« Student stabbed at Winter Hill School | Main | Union Square musician celebrates women in music »

March 01, 2008


Frank Bucca

Talk about discipline and dress code.

I attended Western Junior High School-[now the TAB building on Holland Street]-in the early 1940's.

The Principal at that time was Mr. George K. Coyne.
A no-nonsense disciplinarian.

His mandates:
**Boys--dress pants and dress shirts must be worn-[or you were sent home and re-admitted when dressed properly]

Neckties were optional...but necktie or not, the top button on your shirt had be fastened.
Cuffs to your shirt must always be down and buttoned.

**Girls--No slacks. Skirts and blouses; or a full dress was required.

When traversing the corridors between periods, going to and from classes.
Students were not allowed to walk the middle area of the halls.
We were required to stay to the right, in a line, as close to the wall as possible.

Books, pencils, etc., were required to be carried ONLY in your LEFT hand. This rule designed to preclude a student from "damaging" the walls with a pencil, pen, ruler, etc.

While walking to your next class there was abolutely no talking.

Teachers, Mr. Coyne humself, the Vice-Principal-[Mr. Marchant]-were out in the corridors between classes ensuring compliance.

In staying to the right, the student had to follow the wall even if it ran off at a right angle to your intended classroom destination.

In other words, if you were walking west, and your next classroom was straight ahead, but a corridor ran north off your east-west corridor before you could access your room door, you had to follow the north wall to its end, come back up the other side; and continue walking west to your next classroom.

The students, in jest, called it--"Coyne's concentration camp." "CCC"

But the sun always came up the next morning....and many a wise-ass kid got straightened out by Mr.Coyne.

Where are you when needed [these days] Mr.Coyne?

I know!....His disciplines would never "fly" these days!! And that's sad!!



Although it wasn't quite as strict by the early 1970s, Mr. Walsh ran a similarly tight ship at the Southern. When I first went there in 1971, he was Vice Principal. Mr. McGowan was Principal (although it seemed he was more of a figurehead at that time--Mr. Walsh ran the show). I don't recall walking all around to get to a room, but I also don't recall too many students cutting across the middle of the halls.

Mr. Walsh's stacatto "C'mon, C'mon. C'mon... Move along!, Move along!, Move along!, Over to the right!!!" rings through my memory and, I'm sure, the collective memories of anyone else who attended the Southern at that time... law and order prevailed. Funny how, when we got to the High School where there were no "lanes" you could spot the underclassmen quickly by where they walked between classes.

Was your Mr. Coyne the same person who, years later as Dr. Coyne, served as Superintendent? He was the first Supt. I can recall. He stopped in one day at the Proctor. I believe Dr. Donahue (whose daughter-in-law teaches at SHS) succeeded Dr. Coyne.


Frank Bucca

Yes,JAR.... I do believe, the same Dr. Coyne.

He also had a brother Bob, who was a sports cartoonist for the Boston Globe,; another brother a Priest.

We were also given to understand he was a former Golden Gloves boxer.

Indeed, prone to going to the school gym, after school hours, and putting on the gloves for a work-out.

Hard to believe, and getting away with it, these days...he actually invited a bigger kid "tough guy" bully, who had a penchant for physically pushing other kids around, to come to the gym and put on the gloves with him after school hours.
The bully accepted the invitation.
I still remember that bully's name.

An invitation also went out to the student body to stay, not required, after school hours and repair to the gym to view the "contest."

Mr.Coyne didn't throw serious hard punches; just light-touch jabs to the face, body, and forehead...the bully didn't get one shot in....threw down his gloves and quit....humiliated in front of the viewing kids.
That's Why Mr. Coyne wanted other students present.
He, the bully, got the message.....he never again bullied other kids.

Of course, big trouble for any school administrator to try that these days.

Another thing Mr. Coyne mandated.
All classes had to take a calisthentic break at 10:15 A.M. and windows were opened.

Pupils were to stand by their chairs, and perform prescribed calisthenitics led by one of the more designated athletic bigger boys facing the class at the front of the room.


Funny thing Frank... as I recall, Dr. Coyne WAS a big guy. Although he was older when he stopped in to see us (it was probably in 1969 or 1970, but may have been a little earlier), I recall him being a formidable-looking man. It doesn't surprise me to learn that he was a boxer. What the hell was the punk who challenged him thinking?

Another guy who was similarly formidable--and an AWESOME basketball player--was Mr. Paul Carroll from the Southern. I stopped by and paid him a visit at SHS a few months before he retired from the School Dept. back around 2001, and he looked exactly the same; robust and humorous as ever. Just a great guy. I remember Gary Gartland once remarking that "Mr. Carroll is the strongest man I know." He had a bunch of class photos from the Southern on the wall in the back of his classroom. He asked me what year I left there (1974) and then said "yah, you're there". The students in the class got up en masse and went to the back of the room to see what I looked like.

Cool story about Dr. Coyne. Thanks for sharing that. Yet another in the colorful litany of Somerville educators.



Melissa Ann Crowley-O'Donnell


We are populated near a million. We are West, East, South and Central. We are divided into parks: Powder House, Craigie, Lincoln, Kelly, Winter Hill, Glen, Hoyt, Grimmons. We are over populated with college yuppies (even though the majority of us go to college). We went to Somerville High, Full Circle, Malden Catholic, Matignon, St. Clement's and AC. We united on a weekend ritual at the Mattress Factory, the beads, Conway, the skating rink, the Greek Church, or Blue Label. We drank at the Powder House Pub, Mulligan's, Khoury's or Irish Eyes, where we reminisce about our days drinking at the Parks. And NO we don't hang out at Good Time Billiards. We are known as the city with seven hills, Claredon, Coble, Ten hills, Spring, Prospect, Powder House, and Winter Hill. Yet most of us don't know where Spring Hill is.

We've had our share of "gangs" Winter Hill, Rebels, Notre Dame, South Side Tribe, KPU, and MS 13. To the outside we are known for being the city where the first American Flag was raised on Prospect Hill, that Paul Revere Road through our city or where the Winter Hill Gang and Whitey Bulger ran shop. But we have a deeper sense of Pride. Our Basketball team going to the Tech Tourneys at the "Garden" in the 60's and 2000 and those were the girls, I might add! Or our Cheerleaders winning states quite a few times, and this year's nationals! Our incredible track team, and our hockey team! Or when our football team finally broke the ten-year streak in 1997, thanks to Coach Gulla!

We are a diverse city where most people are bilingual, and are of many descents, Italian, Irish, Portuguese, Spanish, Chinese, Creole and the list goes on. We don't pronounce our "R's" and we have our own terminology, tonic is soda, Johnnie's specials are Bologna and Cheese, there is a huge difference between Leone's pizza and Mamma Lisa's. All the men disregarding age, get their hair cut at Alibrandi's. We don't hang out in Davis Square. We use words such as mad, kid, dude, like, wicked, and guy. We eat at Victor's, the Paddock, Lil Vinny's and Kelley's Diner.

There are some things that won't change here, Zing Wings will always be Worldly Wings, Hess will always be Merit, and 7-11 will always be Kristy's. In the summer we eat Louie's Ice Cream/Slush and watch Softball games at Trum. We don't press the signal button while crossing the street. We run in front of the cars, and then yell at them for not stopping. We have our own Somerville classics, like "stool pigeon" at Dunkin Donuts or the Bearded Lady in Davis Square. We never get in a cab that isn't the yellow or green cab! We're appalled when something closes before midnight. We have a Dunkin Donuts, Blockbuster, Sub shop, and "corner store" every 100 feet. We know all the clerks names at the "corner" store, even though they are usually of Arab decent. Our store 24's close at 12, hmmm wonder why?

We live for Thanksgiving Football vs. Arlington, Sunday Pat's games at the Pub, Khoury's and Pub Road Races, Thirsty Thursday's at Mulligans, Louie's Slush, Slices of Leone's pizza, Blizzards canceling school and shutting down the city, Sledding at the High School, Kegs behind the High School, 7:30 am MBTA BUS, Spice of Life Festival, the Penny Store, Porter Square, meeting up late night at Craigie and the Police Station Halloween Haunted House.

We are defined by the part of the city we grew up in, the park we hung out at. This evidently defined your clique from the age you were allowed to leave your front yard, and were home when the street lights went on. We are categorized by the people we went out with. Our relationships were some what strange. We started dating in eighth grade, and kept that boyfriend until high school graduation. There are a few high school sweet hearts, but more domestic complaints.

Our attire is pretty simple, shell-toe adidas sneakers, jeans, gap hoodies and Kangols or baseball caps to the side. To you we may appear all the same, but through these city walls there are boundaries, stigmas, labels and reputations, that define our originality. We are grouped together, and sometimes we divide ourselves.

We've spent many of nights dyeing with laughter on the street comers and many of nights at the parks struggling to breathe through the gasps and tears, burning candles and vigils. We've lost many people and when it comes down to it, we've seen life and witnessed death too closely. It has brought us closer.

We understand the trials and tribulations of life. Too many times have we stood in a long line outside of a funeral home all dressed in black, and sat at the back of St.Clement's Church. Too many times have we seen our young men carrying the caskets of the lost ones who were murdered, overdosed or took their own lives. That doesn't make them any different from us. We're the ones that survived, whether we chose that route or not, we're the ones still living. There will be more deaths, and more lives brought into this city. These are the reasons people grow up and move out of the city, these are the reasons we stay. To me Somerville is defined by our loyalty, camaraderie and pride!

Copyright@ 2003 Melissa Ann Crowley-O'Donnell


Dear Melissa...Your story is great!! It should be in the paper. AWESOME !!


JAR and Frank...Man ..I wish my memory was as good as yours. Thank you for sharing your wonderful stories.. Keep them coming !!


Jim, do you remember the headline in the Abraxas issue published after the Protest for Pants?

It was "Chalk One Up for Us."

I think Mr. Giroux and Mr. Joyce must have had chest pain when they saw that.

The other memorable bit in the Abraxas was a photo of a group of cows staring stupidly at the camera.

It was captioned "The Somerville High School Guidance Department."

If I recall correctly, editor Laurinda Bedingfield (who was also President of the Math Club and later became the first female Commissioner of Highways for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts) put that little tidbit in after one of the guidance counselors told her that applying to MIT was a bad idea because she was a girl and she wouldn't get accepted, and that her best bet was to go to Salem State and become a math teacher.

Capt. George K. Coyne, Jr.USN Ret.

My father (Dr. Geroge K. Coyne) was the Principal (note that I still capitalize proper nouns - thanks to Miss Giles, my English teacher at the Western), and I attended the Western Junior High when my father was the Principal. It was a wonderful experience for me, as academics and learning was at the purpose of the school. The school was rather excellent because of the rather simple discipline system that the school employed. We all went to classes in a very orderly fashion. Each of us had friends, clubs, and were in a classronm situation where a student could concentrate on the work. Maybe this is a good part of history that should be revisited.


I went to Western for one year in 1963 - before that I went to Cholerton - just down the road on Highland Ave. (no one seems to remember Cholerton). I thought Western was a tough school - I had come to Somerville from NH and had gone to private catholic schools in NH - what a shock - we moved back to NH in 1965. I cannot seem to locate any old friends I had there.



I think you mean the Chaleton School, which was on the corner of Grove and Highland. The Chaleton, orignally the Highland School, was torn down around 1972. Kenney Park occupies the site today.



Nobody remembers the "Cholerton School" because it was known as the "Highland School."

Like nobody remembers The "Zebedee E. Cliffe (sp?) School" because it was known as The "Western Junior High School."

lifelong res

Charlton, I believe, was on the corner of Highland and Grove --Kenney Park now.


you guys must be right about what I thought was the Cholerton School - it was across from the fire station - both were torn down. Remember Dr. Horn at Western? Anyone remember Mr. Brennan? That was long ago - like I said, I only lived in Somerville for 3-4 years but it was an experience - city living! Always something to do.

Gary Gartland

The Charlton School was located on the corner of Highland Ave and Grove Street. It suffered a fire in the mid sixties and was torn down in 1966/1967. It was offered as the potential first site for a Boys Club but sufficient funding was not raised to build a facility.

Subsequently, mayor S. Lester Ralph built a small playground and turned it over to the Somerville Recreation Department. The remaining portion of the site was transformed into public metered parking spaces.

The Boys Club was eventually sited at the former Somerville Police Station / Recreation Department Building at 50 Bow Street in 1973. The Recreaton Department relocated to 19 Walnut Street (former Somerville District Court)in 1969 where it remains to this day.


Gary Gartland;

First off... Hello!

Thanks for correcting me on the date of the Chaleton's demolition. I recall the building being there--but only vaguely--so the ca. 1967 date makes much more sense.

We had dinner recently with a classmate of mine who used to live on Dresden Circle. She attended kindergarten at the Chaleton in 1965 but moved over to the Lowe after that, so it is likely the school closed around 1965.

One thing which I do specifically recall was the "discovery" of the school's underground fuel oil tank some years after it was razed while it was still an undeveloped lot. Near as I can remember, it was right around the time of the Arab Oil Embargo, when fuel prices were going through the roof (you know... 40 cents a gallon or something like that). There was a little write-up in the Journal about it; 'City strikes oil' or some such.


elle bee

It was the Cholerton School and I went there for grade 5 and 6 and had Mr. Severino and Mr. Hughes.

John Ferris

I also attended the Western and one of the rules included NOT leaving the grounds during school hours. I'll never forget sneaking across the street with a couple of friends to Angelos Sub Shop for an Angelo's special and turning around just after I ordered it to find Dr Horn and another couple of teachers looking at me. My father was not happy receiving that phone call. I remember Mr Brennan.. Mr Murphy also I think who would wear a checkered shirt with a plaid suit coat and striped pants occasionally. I remember some pretty spirited basketball and whist games after school hours.. I remember my first date asking a girl from a Catholic School nearby to go see Hard Days Night with me and we stopped at Stones Pharmacy for a strawberry coke before hand. Western was the first place I ever performed playing drums in a band three of us had formed. I agree the discipline in school then was tough as well as the dress code. The fights behind the school were fair. You took off any ring you wore. You fought. You shook hands and went home afterwards and tried to explain to your parents why you had a black eye. The street I lived on (Curtis Street) was noisy at night from the Tufts students coming home from a night of drinking at the Jumbo Lounge. And the present day Rudys in Teele Square was Art's Tavern a place that kids in junior high kept out of. I also remember eventually some kid burnt down the school on a bet or something stupid. Later in High School we would march home from the Tech Tourney games usually celebrating a great victory ( basketball being the only sport at the time that we were good at ) WE hit the pool in the summer near Dilboy Field and played stick ball in the back of Western Jr High. And every year when the class picture was taken with the entire school stretched out in front of the camera someone always managed to have their hand on their knee with the wrong finger extended and a smirk on his face. Kennedy's had the best butter around when you dressed for school you were either a collegiate type with wing tips and madras shirts or you were a rat with gaucho boots, and tight shiny pants. Your hair was considered really long if it went over your ears. If the teacher caught you passing a note in class you ended up having to stand up in front of everyone and read what it said. That could always end up embarrassing. In spite of everything else.. you received a good classical education well rounded in literature, learning Latin. ( oh Ms Bullin please don't faint in class again ) and we actually learned grammar and how to write. ( Don't count me.. I have forgotten !) The city was diverse in culture, kids loyal to the school you attended and you were always afraid of of displeasing your parents. It provided a good base for later life

Laura Tatosky-Leitao

I have such special memories of Western Jr. High. I was there when President Kennedy was assinated. I remember the announcement over the loud apeakers. I remember the dress codes and Mr. Brennen throwing a book at my friend who was being mouthy to him. I so remember our class song!! My dad was a police officer in the city so I had to behave or else! I still dream now and then about being lost in the corridors of Somerville High School. My homeroonm teacher Mr. Jones was such a wonderful person. My boyfiend was in Vietnam then (now my husband of 42 years) and Mr. Jones always so supportive. He always kept me thinking postive. I will never forget that. Oh and of course I remember the typing class at Western!! Loved it.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Most Recent Photos

  • Danehy_Park_Family_Day
  • Bloco
  • 3517a
  • Web_toon_7_21_10
  • Prospect hill
  • Web_toon_7_14_10
  • 3224a
  • Art1(2)
  • Art5
  • Art10(2)
  • Union_square_flood
  • Flood_pic_(bridge_1)